Posts Tagged ‘aquarium’

Sick Day

6 November 2009

Dear J-

The long day today turned out to be started when I got up as normal — well, really last night when we noticed figgy’s fever — and thought of ways to justify heading off to work (the fever isn’t as bad now, how bad can it be, they really need me) and for roughly five hours this morning, I thought we were overreacting; she was as crazy as ever, and helped pick up leaves around the yard as I spoke to the nurse, telling me that the first day would probably be the most logy. The press have done their job well, and I read H1N1 into the simplest of symptoms; based on the low-grade signs I have, though, it’s probably the regular flu (I got a shot a few weeks ago at work).

Since that time, though, it’s been a long ride on the stress train, spiking a high fever and wanting only to nap — it was nostalgic at first (hooray, a nap again!) and then increasingly worrisome. As the day wore on with our little lump of coal burning up under blankets (Tylenol helped, but it seemed to wear off every three hours, and you can’t give it more often than every four), as the shadows grew long and my imagination spiraled out of control, I just sort of shut down and shut out.

Big Tank Show 0905 -sm

Later tonight theVet and I fought over inconsequential things: what to eat, where to go, when to order. We settled on pizza from our new favorite neighborhood haunt, and I went, as usual, to pick it up where I was told repeatedly by a drunk patron that the food was great (we would not be such consistent customers, otherwise). I confessed that I was distracted with a sick daughter at home, whereupon he whipped out a picture of his, proclaiming how great kids were and suggesting various strategies for icing down a fever as needed. It’s strange that confessing my worries to a stranger would make me feel better, but just being able to articulate helps, don’t you think?



Hat Trick

15 June 2009

Dear J-

School Time 3283 -sm

They say a Gordie Howe hat trick consists of a goal, an assist, and a fight. Today was no exception, as we did end up making it to Monterey (just an hour away) for a visit to the aquarium — the goal — with a stop for lunch where I bought wildly overpriced noodles that figgy ended up rejecting anyway — the assist — and not before quarreling with theVet over reading each other’s minds — obviously the fight. Three adults and three children fit neatly into our little van, but at the end of the day it’s the adults who are exhausted and the kids who need judo to work out those last bits of aggression — twelve hours of fun make for a long day.

The Assist 3418 -sm

In between we had the chance to go strawberry-picking, one of those activities that seem faintly ridiculous — don’t we pay other folks to do that for us? — until you see the effect it has on kids, entranced with heavy fruit, the sweet scent filling your head, and the obsessive quest for the best berries. We passed by the supercritical plant at Moss Landing on the way from Aquarium to field, a fitting reminder of how the industrial world keeps intruding on what was a rural network of farms and towns. I had a vision of San Jose being an impenetrable maze of similarly-named freeways and houses huddled behind concrete sound walls, but the truth lies somewhere south, in the garlic-scented air of Gilroy, by the roadside stands lines up from Watsonville to Castroville; like the Boston of my mind, the edge between city and country is abrupt and dramatic. Beauty is never where you expect it.

Downstairs Ahoy 3238 -sm

My nephew is quite fond of pigeons; the last visit to San Diego, we found him chasing the ones in Balboa Park without much luck; at the time I assumed it was the cruelty born of youth, but now I suspect it may have been to hear the dry rasp of feathers ruffled through hurry. Today sitting on the wharf and eating our leftover ham sandwiches (he, feeding the strays with bread crusts) our fellow picnickers disgorged a child who was, with limited success, actually trying to kick said pigeons. My first instinct was to see what kind of parents would encourage sociopath-in-training tendencies, but as it turns out, they either didn’t care or didn’t notice — not sure which was worse; so while I sat and fretted over what to ask them, my eight-year-old wise nephew told the kid to stop, asking how he’d feel with a giant pigeon kicking him (come to think of it, said pigeon would probably just eat the kid raw — at least that’s how Roald Dahl would write it). Smart. Our future is secure.

Round Shuffle 3467 -sm

After dinner we headed off to watch nearly the whole family participate in judo; figgy sat on the bench and snapped her arms in unconscious imitation. The life — her life — is fast-approaching and it’s not always clear where we should be going next; just as the class started shuffling in orbit of the mat I was struck by a clear memory of that morning, watching a small school of fish flying in formation through the big kelp tank. We could do worse than to encourage the group dynamic, pushing her in boisterous celebration of life.

Urban Forest 3468 -sm


Enemy Protozoa 0027 -sm

Aquarium Two

4 January 2009

Dear J-

flickr tells me that it’s been almost exactly six months since we were last at the Birch Aquarium (June 2008) and prior to that, eight months (October 2007), which implies that a yearly membership may not be financially justified (especially if they keep up these secret deals — first Sunday of the month free to Bank of America customers?).  Regardless of visit frequency, it’s less about the undersea wonders that await (I suspect that their old octopus must have gone to see the Great Cephalapod of the Sky, as the current resident of that tank is significantly smaller) than it is about photographic philosophy.

You see, when I took pictures six months ago, figgy was interested but not fascinated by the sea’s residents and animals in general, and the pictures bear it out — I’ve got photographs of fish and atmospheric lobster shots (okay, shot) but relatively few pictures of figgy, who spent most of the day in a stroller or strapped to my chest like some sort of two-headed beast out of Total RecallThis time, there are fewer fish shots — and virtually no shots sans people, in general.  I chalk part of it up to not knowing where we would end up prior to setting off, and thus neglecting to bring along a fast lens, but I ended up being glad I hadn’t — I’ll see the fish at other times, and they’ll still be fascinating.  But watching a twenty-month-old figgy laughing at how that silvery river swirls — that’s something that happens, well, once.


So the lens, for all the lenses I have access to (on the Nikon adapter, 15, 24, 35, 50, 55, 85, 105, 180, 300, 400, 600, 80~200, and 100~300mm; on the Leica R adapter, 35, 50, and 60 — it was no joke when I said most of my grad school stipend went up in glass costs), the lens that lives most often on the camera and the lens that consequently has borne the brunt of my photographic ambitions for the past sixty days or so, is an autofocus zoom lens, with no distinguishing characteristic (e.g. marketing-speak for special glass, motors, coatings, heritage, etc.) aside from a few aspherical surfaces:  the Zuiko Digital 11~22mm f/2.8~3.5, which roughly corresponds to being a 22~44mm angle of view on a regular 35mm film camera.  It’s what I had today; I found myself increasingly drawn to watching figgy’s reactions to the fish, rather than the fish themselves, and a (relatively) fast wide-angle proved perfect for that.  I still wish I had a bit more speed, but anything wider wouldn’t have the same spread in focal length, and thus wouldn’t be quite as useful for me.  And with that said, I find myself rarely venturing much wider than equivalent f=28mm, so … stay tuned.


Aquarium Lens

22 June 2008

Dear J-

As part of the campaign to find air conditioned spaces in San Diego (the four major malls closest to us — University Towne Center, Fashion Valley, Mission Valley, and Horton Plaza — are all outdoor malls) we spent part of the afternoon going through the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  When I was younger my imagination was sparked by the romance of the sea, specifically treasure-hunting sunken-ship divers like Mel Fisher (who discovered Atocha) and, later, folks with a more scientific bent like Robert Ballard (Titanic and Bismarck).  Dr. Ballard worked for Woods Hole, who always maintained a friendly rivalry with their West Coast counterparts, that same Scripps we visited today.

But onwards to the lens; put simply, bring along the fastest lens you can lay your hands on.  Today, I used a f/1.8 lens wide-open at ISO 800 and still found myself wishing for a bit more speed for some situations.  The angle of view was equivalent to a 100mm lens on 35mm film (10 degrees, horizontally), which turned out pretty much perfect to frame most of my shots without getting in anyone’s way, or getting anyone else’s fingers in my way.  Maybe for 10% of the shots I would have chosen something a little wider — the octopus in full fury, cruising along the glass was a sight to behold, and some of the larger sharks would have been nice to get a full-body shot of up close — but the humble little Nikkor did the trick today.  In fact, the only thing that would have been better would have been a macro lens — thus the Digital Zuiko 50 f/2 I keep telling myself I need to save for.

It’s a nice aquarium to visit; not so huge that figgy got bored halfway through; this time she delighted in pointing at the numerous fish all capering seemingly for her entertainment.  The crowds were thin enough that we never had to wait an interminable amount of time for our turn at the window.  Funny how all at once it strikes you, sometimes; I asked theVet several times today when it was that we had this daughter.  For some reason it feels both like forever and forever new, all at once.